The Distance by Zoë Folbigg #BlogTour #Extract

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Welcome to my turn on the blog tour for The Distance by Zoë Folbigg. My thanks also to Melanie Price and publisher Aria for the opportunity to be part of the tour.

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From the author of the bestselling novel, The Note, comes this beautiful, romantic tale of finding love in the most unexpected places.

Under the midnight sun of Arctic Norway, Cecilie Wiig goes online and stumbles across Hector Herrera in a band fan forum. They start chatting and soon realise they might be more than kindred spirits. But there are two big problems: Hector lives 8,909km away in Mexico. And he’s about to get married.

Can Cecilie, who’s anchored to two jobs she loves in the library and a cafe full of colourful characters in the town in which she grew up, overcome the hurdles of having fallen for someone she’s never met? Will Hector escape his turbulent past and the temptations of his hectic hedonistic life and make a leap of faith to change the path he’s on?

Zoe Folbigg’s latest novel is a story of two people, living two very different lives, and whether they can cross a gulf, ocean, sea and fjord to give their love a chance.

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Extract

One
March 2018, Tromsø, Norway

So, ro, lilleman, nå er dagen overSleep tight, little one, now the day is over… Cecilie can’t stop the blasted lullaby from spinning around her head, twinkling like a hanging mobile doing revolutions above a sleeping baby. Alle mus i alle land, ligger nå og sover… The song is rotating calmly and methodically in Cecilie’s brain, distracting her from the couple sitting in front of her as they wait for her to take their order. It is also distancing her from The Thing That’s Happening Today that she’s been dreading for weeks, hoping someone will put a stop to it or change their mind.

The lullaby must have been swirling in Cecilie’s head since she sang it in a quiet corner of the library this morning; to mothers with grey crescent moons clinging to their lower lashlines; to fathers, over the moon to be enjoying their parental leave in a much more relaxed way than they think their partners did. Mothers and fathers and gurglers, all joined in with Cecilie to sing nursery rhymes in the basement of the library, but now those songs and the sweet and happy voices are taunting her.

So, ro, lilleman…

Cecilie thinks of the large print above the fireplace in the living room at home. The room is an elegant haven of greys, browns and whites, dominated by a long, wooden dining table that stands out against the modern touches of the alternate grey and sable plastic Vitra chairs around it. It’s a table where everyone is welcome for heart-to-hearts and hygge at Christmas, although most of the time Cecilie eats breakfast there alone. She likes the grey chairs best and always chooses to sit on one of those while she eats her soda bread smeared with honey and stares out of the window, to the vast and sparse garden beyond. On the white wall above the fireplace hangs a print of a static Alexander Calder mobile that her mother Karin picked up on a trip to London.

‘Isn’t it wonderful, Cecilie?’ she exclaimed, her blue eyes lighting up against the silver of her bobbed hair, as Cecilie’s brother and his boyfriend lifted the black matt frame onto the mantelpiece with a heave.

‘Wonderful,’ concurred Morten, the partner of Cecilie’s twin brother Espen, as he pushed his glasses up his little snub nose. ‘The beauty and intelligence is astounding,’ he added. ‘I just wish I could see it in motion.’

Karin nodded with vigour; Espen had already left the room.

Cecilie looked at the print dreamily, her pale green eyes gazing up at the black Vertical Fern, while it didn’t oscillate as it had in the gallery, or might have done in a breeze. Still, Cecilie imagined herself, fluttering up to the largest of its black fronds to see what it would look like to gaze down at her mother and Morten’s faces from above. Cecilie had a knack for drifting out of position on a whim or a daydream, and seeing the world from above.

Karin, a pragmatist and a politician, found it hard to understand her otherworldly daughter.

‘Cecilie?’ Karin had urged.

Cecilie crinkled her nose and snapped back into the room with a blink.

‘It’s wonderful, Mamma,’ she agreed, although she couldn’t fathom why her mother had bought an inanimate print of something that ought to be in gentle movement. It seemed so unlike her. Karin Wiig was the least static person Cecilie knew.

‘Well yes,’ confirmed Karin with authority. ‘They were just so stunning, you really ought to go to London and see them in motion before the exhibition ends,’ she said with a wave of her hand, although everyone knew she was really only talking to Morten. Even if Espen had still been in the room to hear, he was too wrapped up in his life at the i-Scand hotel on the harbour to bother with the inconvenience of a weekend break, and Cecilie had never travelled to a latitude below Oslo, which was something a diplomat and an adventurer like Karin couldn’t understand.

‘Why is your sister so happy to stay in one place?’ she once asked Espen in despair.

‘Perhaps Cecilie’s daydreams take her to better places than a flight ever could, Mamma,’ Espen had replied.

So, ro, lilleman…

The flash of the frond in her mind awakens Cecilie and she wriggles her inert feet inside her black Dr Martens boots. The lullaby evaporates and disappears, and Cecilie is back with the couple sitting in front of her, at their usual table.

‘Pickle, are you all right?’ asks Gjertrud, her kindly weathered face looking up at Cecilie. ‘It’s just Ole asked you three times for the spiced Arctic cloudberry cake, but you seem a little… in the clouds yourself today, my dear.’

‘Oh, I’m so sorry, so much to think about…’ Cecilie replies, as she writes cloudberry onto a pad in a wisp of ink.

Author

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Zoë Folbigg is a magazine journalist and digital editor, starting at Cosmopolitan in 2001 and since freelancing for titles including Glamour, Fabulous, Daily Mail, Healthy, LOOK, Top Santé, Mother & Baby, ELLE, Sunday Times Style, and Style.com. In 2008 she had a weekly column in Fabulous magazine documenting her year-long round-the-world trip with ‘Train Man’ – a man she had met on her daily commute. She has since married Train Man and lives in Hertfordshire with him and their two young sons. She is the bestselling author of The Note.

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#Giveaway of The Accusation by Zosia Wand #BlogTour @zosiawand @aria_fiction

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Welcome to my turn on the blog tour for The Accusation by Zosia Wand. My thanks also to Melanie Price and Aria/Head of Zeus for the opportunity to be part of the tour. I have a free copy of this novel as a giveaway but first, let’s see what this novel is about, shall we?

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Who would you choose if you had to – your daughter or your husband?

Eve lives in the beautiful Cumbrian town of Tarnside with her husband Neil. After years of trying, and failing, to become parents, they are in the final stages of adopting four-year-old Milly. Though she already feels like their daughter, they just have to get through the ‘settling in’ period: three months of living as a family before they can make it official.

But then Eve’s mother, Joan, comes to stay. Joan has never liked her son-in-law. He isn’t right for Eve; too controlling, too opinionated. She knows Eve has always wanted a family, but is Neil the best man to build one with?

Then Joan uncovers something that could smash Eve’s family to pieces…

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Author

Wand Zosia

Zosia Wand is an author and playwright. She was born in London and lives in Cumbria with her family. She is passionate about good coffee, cake and her adopted landscape on the edge of the Lake District. Her first novel, Trust Me, was published by Head of Zeus in 2017.

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Giveaway

Aria fiction is giving away a free digital copy of this novel! Competition open internationally. You have until Sunday 24 June at noon to enter!

Enter the giveaway by clicking the link below:

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The Cathy Connolly Series by Sam Blake #BlogTour #Guestpost @samblakebooks @BonnierZaffre

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Today it is my great pleasure to be taking part in the blog tour celebrating the release of the third in the Cathy Connolly series of books by Sam Blake, No Turning Back. My thanks to Imogen Sebba from publisher Bonnier Zaffre for inviting me to join the tour. I have a guestpost for you today that I’m happy to share, after telling you a little bit more about this new novel:

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Even perfect families have secrets . . .

Orla and Conor Quinn are the perfect power couple: smart, successful and glamorous. But then the unthinkable happens. Their only son, Tom, is the victim of a deliberate hit-and-run.

Detective Garda Cathy Connolly has just left Tom’s parents when she is called to the discovery of another body, this time in Dillon’s Park, not far from where Tom Quinn was found. What led shy student Lauren O’Reilly to apparently take her own life? She was a friend of Tom’s and they both died on the same night – are their deaths connected and if so, how?

As Cathy delves deeper, she uncovers links to the Dark Web and a catalogue of cold cases, realising that those involved each have their own reasons for hiding things from the police. But events are about to get a lot more frightening . . .

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I read the first novel of the series, the brilliant Little Bones and in case you’re interested you can read my review here.

Guestpost

Reasons for writing under a pen name

A pen name is a wonderful thing for a writer because, for me at least, it’s like becoming a character in your own story. I have a very busy career in publishing running the www.Writing.ie website and a publishing consultancy, Inkwell, so in my own name Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin, I’m quite well known (to writers in Ireland at least.) Being Sam Blake means that I can park all the busy business stuff and focus on my writing. It’s probably more of a state of mind than anything but it helps me hugely in clearing my head!

There are many significantly more practical reasons for having a pen name though. My own name is incredibly long and would be a real squash on a cover – my married name is O’Loughlin and there are two Vanessa O’Loughlin’s in Dublin – the other one is a journalist so there is already some confusion between us. She used to write amazing travel pieces before she became a newspaper editor and people were often coming up to me saying how much they’d enjoyed my article about kayaking in the Amazon (yikes).

The other issue with my name is that O’Loughlin is great in Ireland but outside of the country no one knows how to pronounce it (the gh is a hard K sound). It’s key, when you’re doing promotion for a book and on radio or TV, that people can remember your name long enough to go and buy it. With a name like my real one, they’d probably remember my Christian name but not much more. There are many hilarious stories of people wandering into bookshops looking for all sorts of vague things – ‘that book with the blue cover’, ‘that crime book by that girl Vanessa about Ireland…’ – booksellers are incredibly patient people but they can live without authors with tricky names!

Another key reason for using a pen name in crime, is that there is a theory that men don’t buy books written by women. Every time I say this, I think it sounds totally ridiculous but there’s always a man (or a woman) nodding at the back who knows someone for whom this is true!

It can be tricky having a pen name though, as you have to remember who you are – people who only know me as Sam call me that, and I sometimes feel like a bit of an imposter (actually a lot of the time, I think that’s a feature of being a writer!) but one of the huge benefits of having a pen name is that you get to choose it. William Blake is my favourite poet – so that’s where the surname came from, and my son is a Sam too. What I love about the name Sam Blake is that it sounds like a name you’ve heard of (even if you haven’t!) so people nod when I’m introduced like they should remember what I’ve written but can’t. It’s a conversation starter and like all writers I’m incredibly curious and I love talking to people.

Author

Sam Blake is a pseudonym for Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin, who is originally from St. Albans in Hertfordshire but has lived at the foot of the Wicklow Mountains in Ireland for (almost) more years than she lived in the UK. She has been writing fiction since 1999 when her husband went sailing across the Atlantic for 8 weeks and she had an idea for a book.

Vanessa is also the founder of The Inkwell Group publishing consultancy and the Irish national writing resources website Writing.ie. She is Ireland’s leading literary scout who has assisted many award winning and bestselling authors to publication.

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The Old You by Louise Voss #BlogTour #Extract @LouiseVoss1 @orendabooks #RandomThingsTours

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Welcome to my turn on the blog tour for The Old You by Louise Voss. My thanks also to Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books and Anne Cater at Random Things for inviting me onto the tour.

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Lynn Naismith gave up the job she loved when she married Ed, the love of her life, but it was worth it for the happy years they enjoyed together. Now, ten years on, Ed has been diagnosed with early-onset dementia, and things start to happen; things more sinister than lost keys and missing words. As some memories are forgotten, others, long buried, begin to surface … and Lynn’s perfect world begins to crumble.

But is it Ed’s mind playing tricks, or hers…?

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Extract

4

‘So, I never thought I’d end up pushing a trolley around Asda on my first day at work,’ I told Ed. ‘You should’ve seen the cashier’s face when we went through with all that wine and beer – oh, and a bottle of Jack Daniels for his office drawer. He said, “This should keep us going for a day or two, honey,” to me, you know, like he was pretending we were a couple and it was all for us.’

Ed just stared at me. He had a stain of indeterminate origin on his blue cashmere and splodges of paint on his hands, which were hanging uselessly between his manspread legs as he sat on a kitchen chair. I’d found him like that when I’d come in twenty minutes ago. There were no signs of any dinner preparation and I was starving.

‘Ed? Are you listening?’

I poured us each a glass of wine, waiting for him to answer me, or at least ask me something about my day, but he didn’t say anything. Then, as I replaced the half-empty bottle in the fridge, something caught my attention. I rolled my eyes; it was a pair of Ed’s socks, balled up next to the eggs. I discreetly removed them and stuffed them in my pocket. ‘Where’s the painting you did at Suzan’s, then? I can’t wait to see it!

Are you going to do more?’

He took the wine and finally made eye contact with me. ‘Might do,’ he said.

‘So you enjoyed it?’ ‘Yeah.’

‘What did you paint?’ ‘Some flowers.’

‘Was it difficult?’ ‘Not really.’

I remembered with a pang the days we used to stay up late into the night, debating all sorts of things, from the latest line-up of Take That to cuts in arts funding, Trident, the existence of God, and which was the most flattering style of jeans for a man in his late fifties…

Then I remembered something else. Carefully scrutinising his face as I spoke, I said, ‘Hey, Ed, there was someone on the radio at lunch- time who sounded just like you, it was spooky!’

Did I imagine the tiny hostile flare of his pupils, an almost imper- ceptible narrowing of his eyes? Then the blank expression was back again.
‘What do you mean? Of course I wasn’t.’

I turned away, busied myself with emptying the dishwasher’s clean contents, thoughts crowding my mind. Being on the radio was some- thing Ed used to boast about, not try to deny. Since he took early retirement he’d often rung up radio stations. He’d booked to be in the audience of Question Time within minutes of hearing the announcement that it was to be filmed in Kingston a couple of years ago, and he’d been fuming when he wasn’t picked to ask a question.

As I stacked cereal bowls and plates – and retrieved a second pair of socks I’d found, soaking wet, in the cutlery basket – I made a mental note to ask Suzan what time Ed left her place. If she gave him a firm alibi I’d know I had been mistaken.

But it was that flare of panic in his eyes when I mentioned it, the hard set of his lips, just for a nanosecond, that flung me into a grey cloud of doubt.

Unless the panic had been because he’d forgotten, then remembered again after already denying it? That was far more likely.

I put a clean saucepan on the hob with a clatter and changed the subject. ‘So, are you looking forward to Saturday?’
‘What’s happening on Saturday?’

‘Dinner with April and Mike. On the boat, remember?’

‘I don’t want to go! Do we have to?’ A muscle ticked in his cheek. ‘Why not?’

He and Mike used to be really friendly, but in recent years they’d been funny with each other, distant and strained. Something must have happened between them but neither man would admit to me or to April what it was, so we doggedly continued to arrange social events in the hope that it would blow over.

Ed shrugged. ‘I’m not really in the … er … mood. Not feeling great.’ He did look tired and a bit flushed. I felt his forehead – it was warm, but not feverish.

‘Come on, Ed, you know you’ll love it when you get there. And it’s not till the weekend. It will be a good way to celebrate the end of my first week of work.’

It was his turn to change the subject. ‘By the way, a doctor rang me earlier. Deckmush. Deshmuck.’

‘Deshmukh. What did he want?’

‘No. Wait. It wasn’t him. It was someone else. Can’t remember his name but he wants me to join some sort of, er, thing, you know – trial thingy. A new treatment for whatever my silliness is.’

‘Illness?’ ‘Yes.’

‘It’s all top secret though. I’m not allowed to tell anybody except you. I have to take pills, or have injections. It might be a … fake thing, or the real drug.’

‘A placebo? Sounds promising, Ed; you should do it. Can I talk to him about it?’

‘He said not to tell anyone.’

‘Except me, you said. Which hospital would it be based at? Or do they do it in a lab, or at the doctor’s surgery?’ I had no idea how clinical trials worked.

Ed shrugged. ‘I think he told me but I can’t remember. He said he would email me the, er, details.’

As I poured boiling water into the pan, switched on the gas and tipped in some fusilli, my instinct told me that something didn’t seem quite right about the way he was trying to relay this information – but then, nothing was right about someone getting dementia in his fifties. Of course he was likely to be vague about the details – the man couldn’t remember what he’d had for breakfast and was leaving socks in the dishwasher and fridge – I’d just need to wait and see what the email said.

Author

LOUISE VOSS

Over her eighteen-year writing career, Louise Voss has had eleven novels published – five solo and six co-written with Mark Edwards: a combination of psychological thrillers, police procedurals and contemporary fiction – and sold over 350,000 books. Louise has an MA (Dist) in Creative Writing and also works as a literary consultant and mentor for writers at http://www.thewritingcoach.co.uk. She lives in South-West London and is a proud member of two female crime-writing collectives, The Slice Girls and Killer Women.

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Tubing by K.A.McKeagney #BlogTour #BookReview

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I am thrilled to be today’s stop on the blog tour for Tubing written by K.A. McKeagney. Many thanks to RedDoor Publishing for inviting me onto the tour.

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Polly, 28, lives in London with her ‘perfect-on-paper’ boyfriend. She works a dead-end job on a free London paper. . . life as she knows it is dull. But her banal existence is turned upside down late one drunken night on her way home, after a chance encounter with a man on a packed tube train. The chemistry between them is electric and on impulse, they kiss, giving in to their carnal desires. But it’s over in an instant, and Polly is left shell-shocked as he walks away without even telling her his name.

Now obsessed with this beautiful stranger, Polly begins a frantic online search, and finally discovers more about tubing, an underground phenomenon in which total strangers set up illicit, silent, sexual meetings on busy commuter tube trains. In the process, she manages to track him down and he slowly lures her into his murky world, setting up encounters with different men via Twitter.

At first she thinks she can keep it separate from the rest of her life, but things soon spiral out of control.

By chance she spots him on a packed tube train with a young, pretty blonde. Seething with jealousy, she watches them together. But something isn’t right and a horrific turn of events makes Polly realise not only how foolish she has been, but how much danger she is in…

Can she get out before it’s too late?

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Author

K.A. McKeagney studied psychology in Bristol before completing a Masters degree in creative writing at Brunel. She won the Curtis Brown prize for her dissertation, which formed the basis of her first novel Tubing. She has worked in London as a health editor writing consumer information as well as for medical journals. Her writing has been commended by the British Medical Association (BMA) patient information awards.

She is currently working on her second novel.

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I’m aware of the existence of the Mile High Club but Tubing turns the thrill of a sexual encounter up a few notches and promises even more excitement.

The term Tubing didn’t ring any bells so now I have a new additon to my vocabulary. Of course I Googled it, you’ll be hard pressed not to after you’ve read this novel, but Polly didn’t find anything either via the usual canals so I have to praise the author for creating this clever mystery. Is it real? Does it exist? Did she invent something new? Is it going to be on trend in 10 years?

I really like the whole concept of the novel and it really made this novel so special for a big part. It really is a great incentive to want to read this novel although I have to admit that I thought it would be more thriller and mystery than erotica, where the latter part would be used only as a prop. I certainly was a bit off the mark there though. The first half of the novel is actually pretty laced with Polly’s many sexual encounters. They didn’t really turn me on, instead I couldn’t help having mostly practical thoughts during those scenes. How come nobody takes any notice? I’m sure it can’t be (or become) a reality here where everybody is always looking at what the others are doing. So yes I had to suspend some belief there, sure, but I tried to go with the flow and although I cannot condone Polly’s behaviour with random strangers, I understood why she couldn’t and wouldn’t stop. As long as you’re not caught, you’ll only crave more, more tension, more danger, a bit of spicing up of her dull life. Only, she’s getting a little bit too obsessed with one of those strangers she meets.

The second part of the novel was absolutely my favorite part and was more rewarding for the thriller lover in me. Polly caught on that she’s playing a dangerous game and the tension and danger that was already there from the start take on another and even more unsettling form. As always, secrets and lies form the base of a wonderful twist in the story and I couldn’t keep the glee from spreading on my face when I read how this was going to be played.. roles are reversed and although I wasn’t her biggest fan the ugly truth made me suddenly feel a pang of sympathy for Polly.

If you’re not shy of some erotica in a menacing settting then this is definitely a novel worth exploring.

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher, RedDoorPublishing, in exchange for my honest opinion.

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Dead and Gone by D.L. Michaels #BlogTour @QandA with DI Annie Parker

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Welcome to my turn of the blog tour for Dead and Gone by D.L. Michaels. My thanks also to Melanie Price and Aria for the opportunity to be part of the tour.

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In a world bulit on lies, who can you ever trust? A nail-biting thriller introducing DI Annie Parker. For fans of Angela Marsons and Tess Gerritson, Dead and Gone delivers twists at every deliciously unredictable turn.

Paula Smith could have had it all. Hugely successful in her fashion business, she lives the kind of life she could never have imagined. Her world should have been an idyllic one if it weren’t for her husband Danny who is resentful of her success and increasingly prone to alcoholic rages. Paula knows she should leave him but she if she did, he would pick up the phone to the police and her life would come crashing down around her.

Sarah has found the kind of happiness with Martin she never thought possible. He is everything she could have wished for in an man. Caring, sensitive and loving, yet he has a secret that could threaten everything they share. But he is not the only one with a secret….

DI Annie Parker, mother, grandmother and widow, has plenty of baggage of her own, but she’s still determined to be the best police officer she can be. When she and her sergeant Nisha Patel hear about a 20-year-old murder that nobody knew about, nothing will stop them from tracking down the killer, even if it brings them up against one of the most dangerous crime families in the country.

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Author

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D.L. Michaels is a former award-winning TV executive, who married in Tuscany, has one teenage son and lives on an old converted farm in the Peak District. Favourite writers include Harlan Coben, Patricia Cornwell and Nicci French.

QandA

Have you always wondered about the life of a Detective as well? Well, I know DI Annie Parker doesn’t have a lot of time so I asked her 5 quick question before she had to dash out of the police station again:

1. Do you ever have sleepless nights about a case you’re working on?
I never lose sleep over an offender, but I do over victims. The type of crimes I deal with tend to be committed by career criminals, people who know everything about their offences, the risks involved in committing crimes and are prepared to give up their liberty if they are caught. Their victims though are completely unprepared for what happens to them. They not only suffer at the moment of the offence but they carry on suffering for the rest of their lives. And I lose sleep knowing that even when we have caught the person who hurt them, their ordeal isn’t over.

2. Are you a night owl or a daybreaker?
Depends what case I’ve been working and what’s happening in the family. In recent times, I’ve been burning the candle at both ends because both professionally and personally, life has been challenging. When it comes to fun, I’m a night owl. I don’t want a good day every to end. I want to squeeze every bit of happy juice out of a fun moment. The one thing that life teaches you is that good times aren’t guaranteed. Poor health, tragedy, criminal activity and bad luck can strike at any time. Make the most of the good times.

3. What is your drive? What made you want to become a detective?
On leaving school, I applied for three jobs. A vet’s assistant, a stewardess and a police officer. My first choice was stewardess, but I got turned down for that, and for the job at the vet’s! So, you could say that I stumbled into the career. But I love the job. Loved it from the moment I made my first arrest, from the moment I first gave evidence in a Crown Court and saw someone convicted on evidence that I had gathered and hard work that I had put in.

4. Do you think it’s possible to be a brilliant detective and still have a stable and well-balanced family life?
I’d like to think so. I had a long, happy marriage until an accident killed my husband, Jack. I’m sure if he were still alive he’d tell you that we’ve had our ups and downs, but I was worth sticking with.

5. What is your biggest vice?
Anything made of grapes and fermented. I’d even drink homemade wine. It’s my release valve. I don’t have to get drunk, but just uncorking a bottle, glugging it into a glass and letting it hit my taste buds washes away the stresses of the day.

Quick extra question: 6. How do you relax after a hard day’s work in the field?
Gradually. I like the drive home. It gives me time to mentally file things. Once I get through the front door, I get the news of the day from my son, Tom and if I’m lucky time-wise a hug, kiss and bedtime story with my granddaughter, Polly. After that, a glass of wine, some telly (anything but the news) and a book by the bed usually gives me the strength to face whatever the next day can throw at me.

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In The Blood by Ruth Mancini #BlogTour #GuestPost

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Welcome to my turn on the blog tour for In The Blood by Ruth Mancini. My thanks also to Melanie Price and Aria/Head of Zeus for the opportunity to be part of the tour.

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In southeast London, a young mother has been accused of an unthinkable crime: poisoning her own child – and then leaving him to die.

The mother, Ellie, is secretive and challenging – she’s had a troubled upbringing – but does that mean she’s capable of murder?

Balancing the case with raising her disabled five-year-old son, criminal defence lawyer Sarah Kellerman sets out in desperate pursuit of the truth. But when her own child becomes unwell, Sarah realises she’s been drawn into a dangerous game.

Unsettling and compulsive, In the Blood is a chilling study of class, motherhood and power from a new star in crime fiction.

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Author

Mancini, Ruth

 

Ruth Mancini is a criminal defence lawyer, author and freelance writer. She lives in Oxfordshire with her husband and two children.

 

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Guestpost

How Ruth Mancini became a lawyer and writer

I was born in South-West London and grew up in Hertfordshire and Essex. After doing a languages degree, I got my first job in publishing where I worked happily for several years. In 1994, one of our authors was arrested and later hanged in Nigeria following an unfair trial for a violent murder no-one believed he’d committed. Having met him, I knew what a gentle person he had been and I was angered by the injustice. That was the beginning of a lot of reading (and quite a lot of soul-searching too) that led me to leave my publishing job to pursue a career in law.

I’ve been an avid reader of fiction all my life and it was around this time that I also realised that I wanted to have a proper stab at writing it. I wrote the first draft of my first novel The Lies You Tell and then, disappointed by the initial rejection slips, shelved it whilst I temped as a legal secretary by day and studied law by night. Once I’d finished my legal studies, qualified as a lawyer, got married and had two children (phew!), I once again turned back to writing.

The transition from lawyer to writer was a natural one in many ways. Lawyers are trained to research a subject thoroughly and use words sparingly to compose persuasive written arguments – skills that apply equally to writing a convincing story. And, as is the case with detectives or forensic profilers, many criminal defence lawyers have a natural interest in people and what makes them tick. That’s certainly true for me. I started out with the intention of writing women’s fiction, but a rather unpleasant character found his way into my first two books and it quickly became clear that I was heading in a slightly different direction. Given my background, writing a legal drama or crime story seemed the logical next step.

It took me a while to come out of the closet and admit to my work colleagues that I was also a writer. I wrote and practised under two different identities and in all my online photos I was wearing a wig! My biggest problem was how on earth I could continue to work and write at the same time as raising a family without collapsing from exhaustion. But I found a way – as you will with anything you are really determined to do. Fortunately, my husband is also a big believer in following one’s dreams and he didn’t hesitate to agree when I told him that I needed to reorganise my life and our finances a little, to allow me work part-time.

The wig came off last August when I signed a two-book deal for my crime story In the Blood –and the second in a series – with leading London publisher Head of Zeus. In the Blood is the story of a criminal defence lawyer named Sarah Kellerman. She has a mystery to solve, however there’s a bit of a window into her personal life as well. As both reader and writer, I enjoy a plot-led story with a psychological twist, but I also look for strong, relatable protagonists with real-life difficulties and dilemmas. I’ve had quite a number of these myself over the years and it was almost inevitable that Sarah, in the story, was going to share some of the load. Crucially, Sarah and I have both gone through the same world-shattering experience of finding out that there’s something seriously wrong with our first-born child.

I still practise as a criminal defence lawyer and combine that with writing and raising the children. It hasn’t been easy, that’s for sure, and there have been many sacrifices along the way. But it’s definitely been worth it and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who wants to follow their creative ambitions. Don’t leave it until you retire. You don’t know what your health will be like then. Do it now. And if that dream is writing, then just do it. Write anything. Write about your life, your dreams or your problems. Just get it down on paper, because that’s when the thoughts and ideas begin to flow. It’s like any muscle you exercise – the more you use it the better it works. Do it in your lunch hour. Or tonight. And yes, trying to combine your day job with writing can be exhausting. But in another way, you will find a source of joy and energy that you never knew you had.

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